Following extensive lobbying by the Law Society since the re-introduction of means testing in the magistrates' court on 2 October, the Government has now announced significant concessions to the way the scheme operates.
In summary they will:
- Guarantee that representation orders will start from the date the court received the original form
- Improve the Early Cover Scheme to make payment available when an application form is submitted within 5 working days from the point of first instruction, provided this is no later than the first hearing.
- Provide greater flexibility around a partner's signature.
- Improve application forms for those 16 and 17 year olds who are not in full time education.
- These changes will be introduced over the next couple of months, subject to consultation where this is necessary.
Andrew Holroyd, Law Society Vice President, said: "The LSC has announced some welcome reforms in the very areas that we, the CLSA, LCCSA and LAPG had highlighted as particularly problematic. However, we still consider that a full review of the means test system is necessary to ensure that it is operating in the interests of justice."
The Law Society, in its representative capacity, has issued a statement to criminal defence solicitors regarding the means test introduced in the magistrates' court in October 2006. It sets out the Society's representations in relation to problems associated with the means test. The position in relation to various forms of collective action undertaken by groups of practitioners, and the competition, ethical and contractual issues which practitioners should consider before deciding to join in such action are set out below.